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At home with my folks, Hampshire, England

It’s been a fortnight since we returned from the UK to the US. We are heading back to New Zealand to live at the beginning of October, but for now we’re in limbo; between the two places we love.

I haven’t felt like writing anything much, but have tried to fit in a little reminiscing about our trip. It’s bittersweet to write about the times we shared with our wonderful family and friends whilst in the UK: On the one hand, the photos and memories make the trip linger on and make everyone we love there feel closer; On the other hand, I’m thrown against the wall of reality – that we shan’t see them for a year or so, at the least, and we are about to move even further away again – back to New Zealand.

On every trip back there are always so many people we don’t manage to meet up with; as well as all the wonderful reunions I write about. I haven’t seen many cousins, aunts and uncles in well over a decade. The UK is my home of birth, but not my children’s home. They were born in New Zealand and, as much as they’ve enjoyed this time living in the US, are looking forward to getting back there.

I am forever torn in two – trying to be positive for my children and their future (for sure they have an amazing life in New Zealand and a wonderful future with so much freedom of choice and opportunities), whilst feeling guilty at not being there for my folks. I feel driven to write down all the events, both big and small, that make up the passages of time; clinging on to them to protect them from fading. However faded those memories become they will live on in photographs and the love that we shall always feel in our hearts.

So, this is what it is; a place where I can write about the times we have shared and safeguard them in some small way.

Our last week in Europe was spent with my Mum and Dad in their Hampshire home.

My dear folks with their youngest granddaughter, Alice

It’s where they have lived for thirty-five years and where I grew up. My best-friend, from when I was 11, still lives a few houses away and many of my other school friends have stayed and are seeing their own children pass through the schools we went to. The week was one of spending time with people that have touched my life throughout the years and still mean so much to me. I caught up with friends over coffee, at local pubs, even at a new trampoline centre (anything to keep the children happy!).

Old University friends of both my husband and I (yes, we met way back then… at Southampton University) came together. We shared memories, talked of our different life journeys – the happy and sad parts that combine to make life’s rich tapestry – and looked forward through our children’s eyes at what is yet to be.

We took a day trip into London with my folks and our children, walking through the parks and admiring the sights steeped in history. Hubby took our older two children to the theatre to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’, whilst I spent a lovely afternoon boating along the river Thames with our youngest daughter and my folks.

The week came to a close on a Friday. Our flight scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon. The last day was spent sharing my best friend’s celebration of her youngest son turning ten. She kindly invited us to share the ‘football party’. It was lovely to see her sons and my daughters getting on so easily.

In the afternoon one of our nephew’s, Michael, came down from his University digs, along with his lovely girlfriend, to spend the evening with  hubby and I. One of the binding memories of our visit to the UK this time round was how our daughters enjoyed the company of their older cousins – they were reunited with all but one of their six cousins. All their cousins are boys, and most are a fair bit older, but the bond of family made their union easy.

Michael, Sophie & Alice

Likewise, the bond between Aunts and Uncles and the girls, their nieces, was lovely to see.

Seeing my sister and having the chance to head out for a run with her was a special highlight for me (yes, I’m still running – before wine… have to earn it now I’m forty!).

My sister and I

The memories will live on in our hearts forever xxx

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Linking up with ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers

 

My view right now (running in Copenhagen)

There’s nothing like a run in a new place to put an extra zest in the legs. Having a couple of weeks in Copenhagen, accompanying my husband on a business trip – but with three children in tow – has meant day time activities focused on keeping the young ones happy and entertained. Ever since we landed in Copenhagen (and after the jet-lag of travelling from the USA had passed) my legs have been pumped to get out on a pace of their own; independent of my beloved chick-a-dees.

When the opportunity presented itself I was out the door without a glance back. It was Saturday morning, 7am, when I hit the pathway alongside a picturesque waterway, known as Peblinge Sø (The Lakes, Copenhagen).

The Lakes, Copenhagen

My energy levels were so high with freedom and my legs fizzing to take me on an adventure to explore new sights. My view as I ran was all new to my eyes. Everything caught my attention and there’s nothing like running a route for the first time, not knowing what’s going to be around the next bend, to make a person want to keep on running!

My view was filled with large sweeping vistas as the three artificial lakes, divided into five basins, presented themselves in turn.

There were natural islands along the lakes, home to beautiful bird life.

Close to the pathway a mother swan slept, with one eye partially awake to watch over her baby cygnets. Whilst pedalo boats also took the form of the swans that grace the lakes.

The bridges that divided the individual basins were picturesque and led my eyes on down avenues of roads, that given more time (water and energy!) I would have continued to explore).

Residential areas bordering the waterways captured my attention as they came into view.

It was an absolute delight and I shall definitely be out running again before I leave beautiful Copenhagen.

Information on running in Copenhagen

Copenhagen running routes, including the Copenhagen Lakes.

Running Tours Copenhagen – Check out this company that provide various running tours of the city, from 6km to 15km.

Life and light at Søndermarken – Denmark’s first and only interactive running route consists of a system of lights on the fringe of Søndermarken, firmly resolved to pace runners to keep up their self-imposed pace, chosen at one of two start-stanchions.

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Linking up with ‘The Photo Gallery‘ at Sticky Fingers blog,
where the theme this week is, ‘My view right now’.

The Great Outdoors (in the centre of Copenhagen)

We are currently in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this city of bike loving, apartment dwelling, contented people are numerous gardens and playgrounds. We are still recovering from jetlag and all the children are on different body clocks – but we have managed to get out and explore one little playground in the central city, called ‘Skydebanehaven’, which has a lovely blend of space, play equipment, trees, flowers and nature touches; including bird houses and bird feeders.

If I wasn’t juggling three children single-handedly (hubby is here on business), and we’d fully recovered from the change in time zones from California, USA, to Copenhagen, in Europe, I would have been out exploring a lot more already – but we have a total of 12 nights here, so I’m pacing myself and hanging out for more fresh air exploring come the weekend and into next week. I thought we had the body clocks sorted yesterday – but then we fell asleep between 6 and 8pm – which would have been great, only Miss 4 awoke at 2am and the other two children at 4am!

Miss 4 rides a wooden horse on an imaginary adventure

Miss 4 rides a wooden horse on an imaginary adventure

Anyway, I’m just grateful for the few moments of outdoor time we are getting, as I get terrible cabin fever if I’m cooped up indoors for long. Thankfully there are some scrumptious eateries on the street we are staying and plenty of open spaces to escape to – even for a quick half hour or so.

Miss 8 practicing her balancing.

Miss 8 practicing her balancing.

I can’t wait to get out some more – and even head out for a run once hubby is home, to explore the great outdoor pockets of Copenhagen at my own pace!

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I’m linking up with ‘The Photo Gallery‘ at Sticky Fingers blog,
where there’s some lovely posts of other bloggers enjoying the great outdoors.

The Photo Gallery | The Longest Day

It’s normally at this time of year, in New Zealand, that I’m rugged up with a Pinot Noir, glaring at a flickering candle and wishing I was somewhere warmer. There’s a certain romanticism of tucking up and hunkering down for winter – but it wears off pretty quickly (unless of course there’s a ton of fresh powder snow on a mountain nearby!).

This year, I am in the northern hemisphere, seeing in the longest day, and feeling very appreciative of the sunshine, warmth and long daylight hours. I looked at my Facebook feed of updates from family and friends in the northern hemisphere with shared appreciation and not a shred of envy. Meanwhile, I looked at my southern hemisphere pals in New Zealand with admiration – as some were running marathons and half-marathons, others throwing themselves in the water at Lyall Bay for a mid-winter swim and some hitting the snowy slopes.

I suppose I could have thrown myself in the Pacific ocean for a swim, but went for a run instead. I finished up with a beautiful walk along the beach, at high-tide, getting splashed by the break waves hitting the rocks as I carefully made my way from Santa Barbara beach to Butterfly Beach.

Santa Barbara beach to Butterfly Beach at high tide

I wasn’t alone on my walk. This beautiful pair of white heron were never more than ten yards from me. They kept a wary eye on me, not entirely pleased to be sharing their spot with a bumbling, bare-footed, human. I did try to channel my inner mountain goat spirit whilst scrambling over the rocks, but really didn’t look very graceful – although I managed to complete my walk without a twisted ankle, so that’s a result.

White Heron

I feel very fortunate to be here at the moment, knowing that when the daylight hours start to decrease toward winter, I shall be back in Wellington, New Zealand, just as summer approaches. I shall take the memories of this year in southern California with me, where the sky has almost always been blue and outdoor celebrations have rarely needed a ‘Plan B’. There were two summer-solstice weddings set up on the beach, with typical Californian confidence of the weather being good.

I love the light. I can cope with cold, wind and rain, but natural light is like water to my body and soul. It’s been great to have such a good dose of it this year! Definitely good for my health. 

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Joining in with ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers, with this week’s theme of ‘The Longest Day‘.

The Photo Gallery | Breathe

Saving a little lady bird

1.

She stops her splashing,
to stare at the life she’s saved from the water.
There on her fingers, the lady bird clings,
resting for a while, before taking flight.
Then she exhales, aware of her breathing,
and the miracle of life.

Silent breathe

2.

‘Look! There’s a rabbit!’ she wants to shout,
but muffles her voice with her hand –
so as not to scare the rabbit.

She turns to her parents, backlit by the sun,
to make sure they are watching.

They walk slower,
aware of the noise each step makes,
conscious of their breath,
every inhale and exhale.

In that moment they feel connected –
to all of life itself.

Sleep

3.

Thankful, for
the gentle rise and fall of her chest,
the sound of her breath,
the life force that flows through her,
that was once shared within me.

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Three children I’ve been blessed with,
carried into this world,
watched over whilst they slept through illness –
and rejoiced in the sound of their breath.

running on the beach

4.

Most of the day I just breathe,
without awareness, or appreciation.
Then I have a moment to myself, a gift,
to run on the beach,
or stretch out with a few sun salutations,
and am flooded with awareness –
and it’s an all encompassing,
mind, body and soul feeling,
of being truly alive.

© Sarah Lee, June 2014

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The Photo Gallery | One Word – Metamorphosis

‘One Word’ is this week’s theme over on ‘The Photo Gallery‘ at Sticky Fingers blog and I’m going with ‘Metamorphosis’, after a magical visit to the recently opened ‘Butterflies Alive!’ exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

I visited on with my youngest daughter, age four. She entered the magical world of the exhibition with careful tread, mindful to watch for any butterflies on the ground. There was a mix of wonder and trepidation in her gaze. Numerous butterflies skimmed past us, seeking out nectar from the exotic offer of colourful flowers. She was a little concerned about one landing on her, and what she should do if that occurred, so I passed her my camera to distract her thoughts and she quickly became absorbed with taking photographs of them.

She proudly told me she knew what the word metamorphosis meant and enjoyed rolling all five syllables out on her tongue as she posed for photographs depicting the incredible transformation a caterpillar makes, changing into a butterfly.

All the while I couldn’t help but think what an incredible metamorphosis was happening in my own children, every moment, every day, every year.

Only four years ago she was a babe in arms, cooing to me as I pointed out nature’s wonders all around her. Now, here she was, striding along the pathways of the museum’s ‘backyard’, articulately describing to me all that her gaze fell upon.

Miss 4 taking me on a nature walk

The Photo Gallery | Theme of the week ‘Up Close and Personal’

It’s scorching in southern California and this British Mamma & her Kiwi born daughters are seeking out ways to cool down (especially with the air conditioning broken and the temperature inside the house reading over 88°F 31.1°C!). Outside, around the swimming pool (thank the heavens hubbie rented a house with a pool!) it’s in the 90’s and there’s a choice of take shade or get wet! Miss 8 has the right idea… whilst I zoomed in with my camera to get up close!

Heatwave pool time!

My favourite place to sit is in the shade of the house’s verandah, watching the gorgeous little birds flitting about in the shade with me, building their nests. This little visitor was very friendly and photogenic.

Nest building is hot work for birds, taking a break in the shade

Miss 4 couldn’t quite decide what to do with herself in the heat, playing with the ribbon of a balloon she’d given me for Mother’s Day (or should I say, ‘Mom’s’ Day as it’s better known in the USA!). I don’t get out the camera and get up close enough, and this photograph reminded me that I should more often!

I love the beautiful green of her eyes…

Alice and Mom's Day Balloon

as much as her long lashes as she cherishes the balloon for a moment.

Miss 4 and the Mom Day balloon!

Before finally hitting the pool, Miss 4 joined her oldest sister, Miss 10, for a spell of Minecraft. Miss 10 is definitely more of a winter loving lass!

I love the way Miss 4 gets up on a surf board now (though she’s yet to sample a real wave in the sea on one!).

Miss 4 the surfer girl

Miss 8 really looks the part with her sun bleached Californian locks and tan!

Sophie surfer girl

All the swimming soon had Miss 4 asleep on the couch, enjoying a late avo siesta. Bless!

Siesta time!

She later woke up with energy to play with her best friend Ollie, who’d arrived whilst she was slumbering.

Miss 8 carried on surfing, splashing and cooling down in the water for the rest of the avo, whilst the rest of us sought out the shade (and a cool beer for Mamma and her visiting friend!).

Miss 8

Here’s hoping the air conditioning gets fixed soon, but at least we have ways to cool down – might have to put the bed sheets in the freezer before I go to sleep tonight though!!

Joining in with….

 

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The Photo Gallery | Happy – Finding ‘Happy’ at Disneyland California!

Guess where we are?

Known as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’!

Disneyland!

This visit I am the happiest I’ve been visiting Disneyland California, and it’s not just because of the dashing man by my side (though of course he is a big part of the reason!).

Me & hubbie at Disneyland

It’s also because our Miss 4 has finally reached the magic height of 40 inches, (corresponding with me reaching the age of 40!) which enables her to go on so many more rides!

She stands proud and tall when asked, ‘Can I check your height?’, with a look of determined confidence. She is now able to ride all of our favourite rides in California Adventure Park, like Soaring Over California, Radiator Springs Racers and Silly Symphony Swings. In Disneyland she loves the newly reopened Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Star Tours!

Here she is, between our friend Frances, visiting us from New Zealand, and her Daddy, preparing to go on Soaring Over California:

Soaring over California

Our friend Frances being here is another reason to be super duper happy. We have three adults to three children and everyone is getting to have fun! Hurray!

Miss 8 and Frances hanging out in the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel:

Disneyland Hotel lobby

Frances having a laugh with some flashing ice-cubes that landed in our drinks at the wonderful Blue Bayou restaurant on Monday evening! Fabulous food, wonderful company and superb setting:

Blue Bayou ice cubes

I’m so happy to be dining out and soaking up the good vibes. We had an incredible table for dinner this evening, overlooking the fun of Paradise Pier.

Dinner overlooking Paradise Pier

What a view!

California Adventure

Our older daughters are super happy, now they know the layout of the parks so well, that they feel confident to run onto rides, as ‘single riders’, skipping the long lines of people waiting to ride together. We stay at a cafe nearby, enjoying a drink, whilst they ride to their hearts content! They must have been on California Screamin’ over a dozen times!

We are even managing to get our oldest daughter, Miss 10, to make the occasional appearance in front of the camera, so long as its a ‘Selfie’; those are all good in her book.

Selfie with Miss 10

And Miss 4 is super happy to have her wish to become a mermaid finally come to fruition – at least in painted portrait form…

Alice the mermaid

We have all week here and the weather is scorchio’, the swimming pool inviting and the cocktails…. ahhhh, so happy!

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Linking up with lots of other ‘Happy’
over at ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers blog this week:

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The Photo Gallery | A Favourite Place – South Coast, Wellington, New Zealand

Less than fifteen minutes walk from our home in Wellington, New Zealand, lies the stunning South Coast, encompassing Lyall Bay, Princess Bay, Houghton Bay, Island Bay and Owhiro Bay.

Princess Bay, Wellington, New Zealand

The bays are met by the shoreline, which gradually rises up into the hills of Wellington. The hills are dotted with houses, balanced out with lush green bush in the town-belt strips; for the local population and visitors to enjoy. The bush has footpaths running through it, inviting explorers to enjoy the native vegetation and greet the birds that call this their home. Whilst Fan Tails flutter in and out of the trees, following your footsteps as you walk, Tui call out from the branches, seeking the nectar rich flax to feast on.

Wellington's south coast

The rugged coastline is of mixed terrain, from rocks to scramble over, and pebbled shorelines, to sandy beaches, that welcome the toes, and sand dunes that invite a picnic, a sketch pad and a book. This isn’t a coastline of long, straight, never ending beach, with uniform sand leading to an overwhelming ocean. This is a place that feels like magic, with nooks and crannies, full of adventure . The water that rolls into the bays is the Cook Strait, a band of sea stretching between New Zealand’s North and South Islands.  On a winters day the snow cloaked mountains of the South Island can be seen from the shore.

Seagulls caw overhead, soaring on the uprising wind currents by the cliffs. This is a place that I feel completely at home, whilst also having a deep sense of wonder and desire to explore. I feel uplifted by the sea, whether it’s like a mirror or a white-water froth of white horses.

The sky is always changing, with the four-seasons in one day weather that the people of Wellington are accustomed. It’s a place that offers a thousand living works of art, that are in constant flux and motion. I am missing it so much right now.

As much as Santa Barbara, California, USA, is beautiful too – it’s dry, drought exhausted land, doesn’t offer the lushness of vegetation I love. There are cactuses and succulents clinging to dry land and trees that stand tall, with little fullness. The beach rolls on and on, with few pebbles and shells to marvel at, and the expanse of the Pacific Ocean feels overwhelming to look out upon. I know many people think I’m nuts to not want blue sky and no rain almost every day of the year, but it just feels too bland in comparison to the drama I’m used to living in Wellington. My personality is one of ebb and flow. On the south coast of Wellington I feel at home, at one with the forever changing landscape of nature.

… and there’s always a good cafe nearby, full of character and rich with community spirit, serving an amazing Latte too (miss you Maranui Cafe, The Bach CafeQueen Sally’s Diamond Deli and, a new one for me to check out when I’m finally home, the Spruce Goose Cafe!).

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The Photo Gallery | Sport

It’s a special week of celebration on Sticky Fingers blog’s ‘The Photo Gallery’ this week.  Parenting bloggers in the UK put their heads together to create an event for Sport Relief this year which had the whole of the community buzzing – the Team Honk Relay. Bloggers up and down the land joined together to travel the length of the UK to raise money and awareness.

180 bloggers all over the UK who took on the baton (along with their family and friends), from Land’s End to John O Groats, running, cycling, swimming, roller skating, scooting, pushing buggies. They raised more than £30,000 (donations to ‘Team Honk’ are still open here).

So, to mark this momentous achievement, this week the Photo Gallery theme is: Sport.

My photograph is of my three daughters riding their bikes together (our youngest has just learned to ride a bike with stabilisers). I had one of those ‘Mamma heart swell moments’, seeing them riding together, and was thankful for my camera phone in my pocket to capture the moment.

Sisters riding their bikes together

It hasn’t been easy for them to leave their home in Wellington, New Zealand, and move to California, USA, for a questionable length of time. Our eldest, in particular, left behind a school she loved. They all left behind friends they loved and the home they’ve known since they were babes. On the flip side, they’ve bonded like never before. After a tried, and failed, attempt at school in the USA we made the decision to try home schooling and are now on a path of natural living and learning, where every day is a new day. The biggest value of this experience has been putting family first. Their relationship, as sisters, is more united than it ever was. As a family we are stronger than ever.

The aren’t involved in any sport teams or clubs as such, but they run, play, swim, cycle, dance, sing, and breath the same air together! They are learning in ways that money can’t buy.

Sport is more than beating a personal best, or another team or player, it’s about being active and embracing life, with enthusiasm and fairness. Seeing the three of my daughters together, playing tag or encouraging one another to try a new dive in the pool or a stunt on the monkey bars, is thoroughly heart warming. Love, love, love!

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